United's Favorability Falls After Pet Error Incidents

United Airlines’ favorability has dropped 13 percentage points after two incidents involving the airline’s mishandling of pets hit the media. 

A flight-purchasing study shows that the controversy has resulted in a 16-point jump in Americans’ negative perceptions of the airline, according to data from Morning Consult Brand Intelligence.

United Airlines isn't accepting new reservations for customers who want to ship their animals in cargo compartments. The airline is conducting a review and says it will make improvements to its pet transport program.

A 10-month-old French bulldog died during a United flight March 12 after its owner was ordered by a flight attendant to place the pet carrier in an overhead bin. The next day, a dog was shipped to Japan instead of Kansas City, Mo. The pet eventually was reunited with its owner. A third dog was incorrectly placed on a flight to St. Louis, which prompted the airline to divert the flight to Akron, Ohio, the dog's intended destination.



United's drop in favorability is not as dramatic as the 47-point drop in favorability in April 2017 after a passenger was dragged off a plane.

On March 19, 40% of Americans reported hearing something negative about United Airlines recently. In contrast, on March 11 — before the incident occurred — 16% of respondents said the same.

Despite scandals, the flight purchasing study shows Americans are still willing to fly United if the price is right. Morning Consult also conducted a survey from March 17-18 in which 2,201 American adults were shown simulations of buying flights from Respondents were asked to choose between flights from NYC to Chicago that were either on United, American or Delta, and were given different scenarios that tested how layovers and cost would impact the decision.

U.S. travelers selected American over United when cost/duration are the same. When the flights were identical, 55% of respondents chose the American flight over United.

Price seems to matter the most. When the American flight was $34 more expensive than the United flight, 79% of respondents chose United and 21% chose American.

The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of women based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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